Tuesday 5th November 1895
Inventor George B. Selden received US Patent No. 549,160 for his “road engine” (gasoline-powered automobile), granting him the monopoly on the concept of combining an internal combustion engine with a carriage. Although he never became an auto manufacturer himself, every other automaker would have to pay Selden and his licensing company a significant percentage of their profits for the right to construct a motorcar, even though their automobiles rarely resembled Selden’s designs. In 1903, the Ford Motor Company, which refused to pay royalties to Selden’s licensing company, was sued for infringement on the patent. Thus began one of the most celebrated litigation cases in history, ending in 1909 when a New York court upheld the validity of Selden’s patent. Henry Ford appealed the decision, and in 1911, the New York Court of Appeals again ruled in favour of Selden’s patent, but with a twist: the patent was held to be restricted to the outdated construction it described. In 1911, every major automaker produced vehicles that were significantly different from that described in Selden’s patent, and major manufacturers like the Ford never paid Selden another penny.